Braves: Who is the favorite for the 5th spot in the rotation?

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Following Charlie Morton‘s extension, four spots in the Braves rotation are locked up going into 2023. Max Fried and Spencer Strider are 1A and 1B, Kyle Wright is coming off a 20-win campaign and top-ten finish in the NL Cy Young Race, and Charlie Morton is the veteran of the group looking to bounce back after an up-and-down 2022. There’s only one spot left in the rotation to fill, and even if the Braves don’t add anyone this offseason, there is already a bevy of candidates to choose from.

5. Freddy Tarnok

Tarnok made some substantial strides last season, which earned him a cup of coffee in the majors. Still, he’s by far the least experienced of this group, making him a long shot to begin 2023 in the rotation. With that being said, crazier things have happened. Tarnok has some incredible swing and miss stuff, and who knows how the other players on this list will look in Spring Training. Regardless, if Tarnok starts the season hot, he’ll find himself in Atlanta next year eventually.

4. Mike Soroka

Soroka coming in at #4 may shock some people, but it’s a testament to two things. Most importantly, I am not going to expect anything from Soroka until I see him pitch 5+ innings without any issues. He hasn’t pitched in a major-league game since 2020. There’s a very good chance he begins next season in Gwinnett, and that’s okay. I’m hopeful we will eventually see him in Atlanta again, but I’m done going into seasons expecting anything out of him. Secondly, the Braves just have a lot of other talented arms that he’ll be competing against. So not only does Soroka need to prove that he’s healthy, but he needs to be competing at a high level to win a roster spot.

3. Kyle Muller

I almost put Kyle Muller higher because of all the players on this list, he might have the most upside. There aren’t many starting pitchers that can throw in the high-90s consistently from the left side. Muller is the Braves top pitching prospect and coming off a season in which he was an International League All-Star. However, his experience in the majors has been rocky, highlighted by his lack of control. Once that’s harnessed, he’ll be in the majors for good, but I’m not sure how likely that is to happen before the start of next season.

2. Bryce Elder

As far as upside, Elder might be last on this list, but the guy has been nothing but consistent at all levels throughout his professional career, and that continued this year in the bigs. With the Braves, Elder posted a 3.17 ERA, and his last five starts were eye-popping, recording a 1.65 ERA and 2.41 FIP. He’s major-league ready, but his stiffest competition for the fifth and final rotation spot is up next.

1. Ian Anderson

This is a no-brainer to me, and it’s the biggest reason why I see no reason why the Braves should pursue a starting pitcher this offseason. I remain a firm believer in Ian Anderson. 2022 was a year to forget, but following a full offseason of work, I expect him to come back and look much more like the guy we saw his first couple of seasons in the league. Nobody lucks into a 1.26 postseason ERA over eight starts. Anderson had a no-hitter going through five innings in the World Series against the Houston Astros. He’s an outstanding talent that should get the nod first out of all these guys in 2023.

Photo: David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire

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